vrijdag 2 februari 2018

Stories from the city

The sun was still refusing to come out and play for most of last week, but mercifully the rain held off and we enjoyed a couple of dry days.

On one of these days, I was sitting at my desk, wistfully looking out of the window and wishing I could go for a walk.

And why not, I thought. Damn, that's exactly what I was going to do. I couldn't wait for lunchtime to arrive.

I started walking into the direction of the river Scheldt, which is less than a ten minute walk from my office.

If walked briskly, that is, but first I passed the cathedral's main entrance, where I mingled with the hordes of tourists photographing its magnificent façade.



Catching a glimpse of the Grote Markt to my right, I made a little detour to catch this classic view.

The Grote Markt, Antwerp's market square, is lined with many lavishly decorated Guild houses. Don't be deceived, though, as they are not as old as they look. The original houses being destroyed by fire in 1576, they were rebuilt in Flemish Renaissance style, but revamped again in the 19th century. Note the beautiful golden statues on top of the houses, catching the rays of a hesitant sun.




The bronze statue, which in the Summer months is turned into a fountain, dates from the 1880s.

The man on top is called Silvius Brabo, although like Morse, he usually goes by his surname only, and if you look closely, you can see that he is in the process of throwing away a severed hand.

Creepy, until you know the full story behind it. According to legend, Brabo rid the city of the evil giant Antigoon, who demanded tolls from people wanting to cross the river and cut off the hands of those who refused to pay. After slaying the giant, Brabo gave him a taste of his own medicine by severing his hand and throwing it into the river Scheldt.

According to popular belief the city's name - Antwerpen - is derived from the act of Brabo throwing the hand, which is "handwerpen" in Flemish.

The hand also became a symbol of Antwerp, appearing on the city seal as early as the thirteenth century.



Having finally made it to the river, I turned right and was immediately faced by the oldest building in Antwerp, a 800-year old castle known as Het Steen (literally meaning "the stone"), which is standing rather desolately at the quayside. It was named Het Steen as it was the first large building constructed in stone.

What remains today is only a fraction of the once mighty castle. The building was once the center of the city's oldest neighborhood with narrow streets, gates, towers and a fish market.

The castle was altered several times during its history, and it is actually quite easy to see which part of the castle is still original, as the 13th century masonry is much darker than the later additions.



In the 19th century, the city decided to widen the river and construct new quay walls to accommodate the growing harbour traffic and to prevent the river from silting up. For this, the historic streets around the castle - more than five hundred buildings! - were demolished. Het Steen survived, though only barely: the city council voted in favour by just a single vote.



Near the entrance of the castle stands one of Antwerp's most famous statues. Dating from 1963, it depicts the legendary figure of Lange Wapper who, according to Antwerp folklore, could grow to the size of a giant and terrorized the city in the 16th century.

I walked up the incline to the castle's entrance, and emerged at the other side, climbing up the stairs leading to the elevated promenade along the river Scheldt, which is actually built on top of a row of old warehouses, now mainly used for parking. You can see their corrugated roofs behind the railings on the right.



The broad, windswept quayside promenade is a favourite place for Sunday strolls, but on this grey and breezy Winter weekday, I practically had the place to myself.

In the distance, the port opens up, with dockside cranes, windmills and modern high-rise buildings vying for attention with the late 19th century Pilotage Service Building (locally called "Het Loodswezen") in a prominent position mid-picture. The swooping seagull entered my view just as I was about to push the shutter, or whatever you call the equivalent when taking photos on a smartphone.




Descending to street level, the row of  gabled warehouses with their decorative metal pediments can be fully appreciated. Their rusty appearance only adds to their charm. The ornaments on top include typical maritime attributes like anchors and ship's helms.

With an eye on the clock, I made my way back to the office, almost getting lost in the muddle of small streets and alleys, watched over by some of Antwerp's delightful street corner Madonnas.



Speaking of which, we found this charming plaster holy family statue while out charity shopping on Saturday.
     

But before I show you my other finds, let me take you through what I was wearing for our shopping trip. 

Although it has been in my wardrobe for years, I don't think this plaid Diolen dress ever made it on the blog. It is lined, although the lining is in very bad shape, has a pointy collar and shiny square black buttons framed in white metal. I love its turned-up cuffs, closing with two buttons.

In order to give it even more oomph, I added red accessories: belt, necklace and plastic bird brooch. Even my watch strap is red, but I chose a teal plastic ring.


What to wear on top of a plaid dress? Well, more plaid, obviously. The cardigan, from King Louie, was charity shopped, and the über-cute green ceramic Bambi was picked up at a vintage market. Due to his fragile nature, I am treating him with the utmost care.


I added yet another layer of plaid by wearing this rather heavy vintage coat from Oxfam, which I've recently rediscovered. Further Winter warmth was provided by my mustard beret and crushed velvet scarf. It was quite chilly outside!

Boots would have been the obvious choice, but I felt like wearing these delectable vintage brogues, which are Italian made for Bouvy, a posh Brussels shop. They were charity shopped, obviously, together with a vintage coat which came from the same shop, back in October.


In the run-up to the Retro Day, which will take place in March, there's a hardly a chance to buy vintage, so pickings in that direction are meagre to non existent.



Look at this gorgeous edition of Dickens's The Old Curiosity Shop, though! It's a pity it isn't dated but, whatever its age, it is surely worth the € 0,75 I paid for it.



I've been quite lucky with new-to-me items lately, and this grey cable knit cardigan was no exception. The leather belt was another recent find.


Finally, my eye was caught by this short swing coat from Spanish brand Sfera. Yes, yet another coat! 

It's time for another clear-out, before, like Suzanne's friend, I suffer a crisis at my next wardrobe switch! OK, I do admit I'm suffering from The Thrifter's Malady!


32 opmerkingen:

  1. A fascinating read and a lovely mid week walk!
    I love the brogues, very unusual and I like the grey cardi too.
    Have a lovely weekend. xxx

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    1. Thank you Sally! Those brogues don't just look great, they're really comfortable too! xxx

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  2. You collect coats my dear Ann :)
    What a great idea to have a walk. Antwerp is such a stunning city, I like it so much. I would like to walk there too.
    I wish you a lovely weekend, huge hug Tina

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    1. Definitely, Tina! It gives me great pleasure that you like my city! xxx

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  3. Again, thank you for taking us along on your walk-I enjoyed it. I sort of like the idea of a giant terrorising a city, but maybe that's just a reflection of my cranky mood today.

    I'm a bit of a coat collector as well. I justify it by the fact our winters are so long. Beautiful grey cardigan, and of course you know I love that deer brooch.

    Hope you have a great weekend.

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    1. I never understood people who don't like wearing coats, or who have just one winter coat. How boring! xxx

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  4. Hahahaha! Yes, The Thrifter's Malady is really going around lately.

    You live in a fantastic city. So much history. I miss that here in North America. When I lived in London, France and Italy I took it all for granted. I would have gladly accompanied you on your walk.

    I must say I'm in love with your fancy shoes! Smashing!

    All that plaid put a huge smile on my face. Layered up in plaid...makes one glad! Ha ha!

    Suzanne

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    1. You do take your daily surroundings for granted, don't you? I love going out for a walk during lunch, and rediscovering it all again. xxx

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  5. Wow! What a beautiful city you live in, Ann! Such amazing architecture and fascinating history! I love your dress and the teal ring and of course the red bird brooch and green deer brooch. I love coats too, but unfortunately it's never cold enough here to wear them. Although, when I lived in northern Japan many years ago, I built up quite a collection of coats to survive the winters there! I think winter clothing like coats, tights, scarves etc, are much more stylish than summer clothing! I may have to plan a winter holiday I think! Hope you have a great weekend, Ann! XXX

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    1. Thank you Sasha. You've got a point, I think winter clothing is generally more stylish too. By the end of it, I am longing for my summer clothes, though ... xxx

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  6. Such beautiful architecture! I do do love walking along waterfronts this time of the year, I find it exhilarating and I like the quiet. I try to avoid the coastal areas in summertime as crowds make me anxious.

    I love your deer brooch and your lovely coats xxx

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    1. You'd never find me on a crowded beach either. Crowds do give me claustrophobia. I can't bear it if someone blocks my way. I've got quite a few deer brooches, but this is definitely my favourite. xxx

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  7. looove all the plaid in one outfit!!
    and those shoes - so chic!
    really enjoyed your antwerp tour - its a beautiful city with a long history - and you are a great storyteller about it! bravo for leaving the office for a spontan walk :-)
    i would have bought that book by its cover too - its green and "jugenstil" ;-) and everyone should have a long gray cableknit cardi - its one of the most versatile items..... (have & wear one for over 10 years now)
    cute swing coat!
    huge hug! xxxxx

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    1. Thank you Beate! It finally is cold enough to wear cableknit jumpers and cardies here. Hurray! xxx

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  8. Ooh ! That dress and cardi...... my pile please haha.
    What fabulous architecture you have near you
    LYNN xxx

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    1. Thank you Lynn. The pile in the corner of my bedroom is getting quite high, you know! xxx

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  9. I love these glimpses of Antwerp! Thank you! I thought of you this weekend, both when I wore my Dries Van Noten top on Friday and when I helped a friend thrifting and we found an Essentials Antwerp dress for her (all the way over here on Canada's west coast, how about that?).

    I love all your plaid - you would have been right at home at the Victoria Film Festival I was at on Friday night!

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    1. It's fascinating to think how far that Essentiel dress travelled. It works the other way too, as yesterday I found a handbag made in Canada! xxx

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  10. It's amazing that you have such architectural treats in a short distance from your office. Lovely little walking tour! I liked the double plaid combo xx

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    1. Thank you! Antwerp has quite a lot to offer, and I'm lucky my office is so central. xxx

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  11. Thank you for this gorgeous walk in your magnificent city, Ann! I enjoyed learning bits of city history and mythology. What a bunch of grumpy giants though! I am so happy that Het Steen survived, these old stones are precious. Thanks to those few votes! Your photography is amazing, as always, it tells a very personal story.

    I adore the plaid on plaid, the lovely Bamby, the mustard yellow and rich textures over your gorgeous coat! Those shoes are fantastic. I need a pair! :) Your new cardigan and coat are wonderful additions, I can see many wears ahead.

    Lots of love, my friend! <3

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    1. Thank you for your lovely words, Natalia. I'd never come across a pair of shoes like that before! Oh, and I was thinking the same about the giants. What a grumpy pair indeed! xxx

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  12. Would it be rude to copy and paste the first three lines of Natalia's comment? My thoughts echo her's exactly!
    xx

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    1. Thank you Hazel, and I don't think Natalia would mind! xxx

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  13. such a lovely walk!, I do love to see all those details that caught your eye when walking through your city!, and love to read about History, legends and architectural details.
    And I'm also loving your plaid on plaid outfit!, your dress is fabulous! (oh, those buttons!), and it rocks with the cardigan!. Well, you look gorgeous! and I love your coat and those shoes! (obviously, also love your cute brooches!)
    besos

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    1. Thank you Monica! I'm a sucker for great buttons, they often win me over when deciding on a purchase! xxx

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  14. Beautiful architecture Ann. Thank you for showing me around, I love posts like this. xx

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    1. Thank you Laurie, I'm glad you appreciated my little tour. xxx

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  15. I'm behind with my blog reading Ann!
    How lovely to have all this history on your office doorstep. I was fascinated by the tales of Brabo/Antigoon and Lange Wapper, Antwerp was home to some nasty characters!
    I noticed those little corner shrines when I was in Bruges and thought they were charming.
    Great scores on the swing coat and fab brogues. xxx

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    1. No problem, Fiona! I've no idea where the fascination for giants come from. There's a theory about Lange Wapper, though, that the legend stems from the shadows thrown by the harbour cranes at night, frightening inebriated folks making their way home ... xxx

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  16. Oh, Antwerp does look lovely! We keep talking about going to Bruges, but Antwerp looks gorgeous too. Those houses on the square are so pretty, I don't care how old they are(n't).

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    1. Both Bruges and Antwerp are well worth a visit. Bruges is the obvious choice as it is so pretty. But there's quite a lot to see in Antwerp as well. Obviously, if you ever decide to visit, you'll get free guides! xxx

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